Elections, electioneering and voter behaviours provide great lessons in leadership.
When a prospective employee signs up to join your organization, he makes his choice – similar to a voter casting his vote in favour of a party, its representative, governance track record or purely based on comparative choice available. I believe that any organization can relate itself to the context of a political party, elected representatives, council of ministers and the government. There are great many lessons you can derive by analyzing each of the dimensions which go to make a popular government..
To be an ‘Employer of choice’
The dream of any HR leader is to make his company an employer of choice in the increasing cluttered marketplace where patience runs very thin for both employees and their employers. With constant battles with employee attrition, low motivation, interpersonal conflicts, lack of collaboration and employee stress, it is important to look at ’employee happiness’ as a strategic tool than merely as reaction to events. To be an employer of choice is more like being the party of choice for governance. Leadership must understand that you require to gain the ‘confidence’ of your employees to get a positive vote for governance. They will choose you over others only when you meet their expectations as much as we do with our political dispensation.
Unfortunately, in the corporate world the vote is cast everyday based on the quality of leadership governance you provide on a daily basis. You do not have the luxury of getting the vote cast every 5 years and until then afford to relax. I am listing a few of the many points you as leaders may want to consider towards providing great governance to your voters aka employees.
- Corporate slogan – what’s your corporate slogan? an elevator pitch or a line which appears at the top of your webpage or advertisements. The one which provides employees (prospective and present) a sense of who you are and what you can deliver or they can expect. You can have different slogans for different dimensions of your work; like for customer, employees, vendor partners etc. Many organizations focus predominantly on creating and socializing slogans for customers and only a few for the people who work for them. How about ‘enabling your dream’; ‘providing a platform for your creativity’; ’employee wellness is at the heart of way we conduct our business’. I’m sure you are getting the point I’m making here? Your corporate slogan should be at the heart of driving all your actions. It’s something which can provide a daily boost of motivation to people who you work with and work for. When organizations fail to articulate their slogan, the people will start creating their own and as the number grows it will become increasingly difficult to handle. One important aspect which I would like to mention when you create this slogan; Do not hand over this job to an agency. It’s always best when the statements are straight from the horses mouth. You don’t have to be fancy and bombastic in your presentation. As long as it comes from you the business leader, it will be seen and perceived as authentic. I for one am not a big fan of creative agencies meddling with or providing me with slogans which then I have to work with. You should restrict their inputs only for making them presentable. I’m sure you would have come across many election campaigns backfiring because the creative agency dished out slogans which were ‘creative’ but could not relate to the reality nor provide conviction to the campaigner. Parties have lost election because of such campaigns. An example is the ‘India shining’ campaign of then government which fell flat on its face and couldn’t connect to the masses. While powerful slogans can get you to power but you as a corporate leader must also be convinced that it is sustainable in the long term. I suggest that this corporate pitch should be decided and articulated by the leadership themselves.
- Corporate manifesto – you must consider having a manifesto for your company which becomes the essential document which guides all your actions while conducting your business. When I say, a manifesto, it should be such that it is easy to remember, communicate and carry. It can be something of a one or two page document which provides your employees and customers a feel of your culture and the way you intend to transact business. This is not your conventional policy document which is often exhaustive, technical and caught up in legalize. I’ve seen many employees when asked about their awareness of company policies drawing a blank or remembering very little. Policy documents are visited only when the need arises or a crisis emerges. I’m not suggesting that you should do away with such documents; manifestos just serve a different purpose. It helps people by providing them directions for work everyday; every moment. Some organizations might call this their ‘values document’ which once downloaded as part of onboarding exercise is conveniently forgotten; as much as the voter forgetting the political manifesto after the elections only to remember when crisis occurs or impacts him directly. So what’s your manifesto? do you have one? Remember it can be for a year or five years and you can publish them periodically.
- Campaigning – who are your campaigners? – your leadership team or group of managers are effectively like the campaigners during elections. They are the one’s who go on to commit on behalf of the organizations to employees, customers and prospects. They reflect the organizational ethos for their constituents. It’s imperative that your campaigners ‘walk-the-talk’ else the constituents will lose faith in the whole setup. Every word that comes out of their mouth, every action or inaction, commitments they make are all recorded in public memory and are not erased. Everyday will be a measurement of their performance against what they said during the campaign. Failure to meet the expectations will prove costly. Let me give an example of a Hotel which claimed its philosophy was ‘Always guest first’ and when a prospect wanted to meet with the front office supervisor, he was told that the supervisor is in a meeting and he had to wait. You must choose your campaigners and the campaign very carefully. A campaigner has to stick to the exact same words from the campaign plan and must remain consistent – ‘walk-the-talk’. This is what will get you the vote.
- Voting and the feedback process – Voter turnout and voting patterns are a good indicator of your governance and the hope you provide to your constituents. A low voter turnout could indicate the ‘loss of hope’ or ‘lack of alternatives’. It is indicative of the fact that the people have lost complete faith in the process as their leaders seem to have let them down badly. They feel short changed. A high voter turnout similarly could indicate that people are happy or have found a strong need for ‘change’. They believe that their vote will make a difference. In the same way a 360 feedback process in the organization helps the leaders to get continual feedback on their performance. While many organizations have experienced that people have lost faith in the 360 process very similar to the voter behaviour during elections. When does an employee lose faith in the 360 feedback process? You know that when there is no follow through on the feedback received. It’s important that leaders use the feedback as an effective means of their corporate governance and use follow through actions to build the faith of their employees in the leadership and organization. Else, you risk being voted out (at least in their mind).
What are the leadership lessons you can think of?